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How to Introduce a New Puppy to Your Old Dog

If you have decided to add a new puppy to your household that already has a dog, there are a few things you would be wise to consider.

Make Sure Both Dogs Are Healthy

Before getting a new puppy, make sure that your older dog at home is entirely healthy. Your dog should be up to date on all of its vaccines and in good health. If you are concerned, bring your dog to your veterinarian for a wellness check.

Once you bring a new dog home, make sure that you get them to see the veterinarian within the first week that they are home. Your veterinarian will give your new family member a health check and give them any vaccinations that they need.

All of these health checks and precautions are important for both of your dogs' health, especially if you are getting your new dog from an animal shelter. Shelters take in animals from all backgrounds, some of which will not have been vaccinated. Even the best shelters may have viruses spread around the facility. The last thing you want is for your old dog to get an easily preventable illness from your new puppy.

Additionally, it is a good idea to have your dog spayed or neutered before bringing a new dog home because "fixed" dogs tend to be less aggressive. Unless you plan on breeding your new puppy, talk to your veterinarian about getting them spayed or neutered when you take them to their first appointment that first week you have them. There are so many homeless dogs and puppies already. By spaying or neutering your pets, you will make sure that your pet is not adding to the problem.

If you don't already have it, we highly recommend getting pet health insurance for your dogs. It could save you a fortune in the event your rescue pup needs serious health care. It can also cut down the costs on average vet visits. See our article here on the highest rated pet health insurance companies we could find.

Make Sure Your Older Dog Can Handle A Rambunctious Puppy

If your dog is older or a senior dog, the ease of the addition of a new puppy will depend on your dog's personality, health, and social skills. There are some things that you should consider with your older dog:

How does your dog do with other dogs or other pets?

If your dog was socialized well during the critical period, they might get along with other animals better. If your dog plays with other dogs and is used to be around other dogs, that is a good sign. Even with this in mind, remember that senior dogs and puppies have different play styles and social skills, and it will take them a while to get to know each other and get along perfectly.

How patient is your existing dog?

Older dogs are a bit more tolerant of puppies than younger dogs, but they can still get frustrated. You will need to give your puppy more guidance, who may always be nipping at your other dog or going into their personal space, to prevent your other dog from growling or showing dominance to the new addition.

Is a new dog going to impact your older dog's quality of life?

Senior dogs can still be active and love to play, but sometimes older dogs may be experiencing health issues such as hearing loss, sight loss, old dog syndrome, severe joint pain or extreme anxiety. If your dog has any of these health issues, consider if it is in your family's best interest to add to your older dog's stress levels. If your dog has spent most (or all) of its life as the only dog in the family, adding a puppy into your dog's life during its golden years might not be the best option. If you are set on adding another dog to your family, look into adopting another senior dog into your home.

Make Sure To Introduce Your Dogs in Neutral Territory

Once you decide that you and your dog are ready to add a new dog to your family, it is time to introduce your dog to your new puppy. This meeting will set the tone for your dogs' relationship, so you want to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible. Just bringing a new puppy into your home may cause your older dog to act aggressively. When introducing a new puppy to your older dog, it is always recommended that you do the introductions in a neutral territory such as outside. Both of your dogs should be walked separately on their own leash, and it is a good idea to have each walker have a bag of the individual dog's favorite treat or food as a reward.

Walk both dogs at a distance where they can see each other and if they are not showing any negative behaviors, give them both a treat. If both of the dogs still seem to be relaxed, it is time to shorten the distance between the two dogs. Whenever the dogs look at each other in a relaxed way, make sure to reward them with a treat. Keep this up until the dogs are close together and can interact. If either dog shows any negative response, it is time to intervene. See below for more information on if the interaction goes sour.

As the two dogs are getting closer to each other, allow them to determine their introduction pace. Let them walk side by side and then allow one dog to walk in front of the other and then switch. If both dogs stay relaxed, they may start initiating play with each other, but if not, that is okay too. Be patient.

Once your new puppy and older dog get introduced outside in the neutral area, it is time to bring the new puppy home. Before bringing your puppy home, get a tall and sturdy baby gate that you can use to separate the two dogs. Observe how your dogs interact through the baby gate and use positive reinforcement and treats to reward positive interactions. During this stage, make sure not to leave any food or toys out that they can both see that might cause them to fight.

Closely watch your dogs during this time until you are 100% confident that they can interact without the gate safely and nicely. Then you can remove the gate and watch how they interact with each other.

Once the gate is down, you still have some work to do with both your old dog and your new puppy. Feed your older dog the same way that they are used to, but feed your new dog in a different room. This will prevent the dogs from fighting over food. The same goes for toys. You know your dog better than anyone else. If you have observed that your dog has a history of guarding its toys, remove these toys from the house for the first few weeks that the new dog is home.

As for treats, make sure that you feel like both of your dogs can handle getting a teat without fighting or growling. Even when you feel confident, make sure to supervise your pups the first couple of times. And if you avoid giving your older dog a specific type of treat due to aggression (like bones or rawhide), make sure not to give your new dog that treat either. This will just lead to conflicts.

Try to keep your older dog on a similar routine. Your new puppy has no expectations and can handle a change better than your other dog. Do not change your senior dog's sleeping arrangements and prepare to crate train your new dog at night or when you are not home so that they will not get into conflicts when they are unsupervised.

Lastly, for the first few weeks, try not to do anything that involves restraining one dog in front of the other (such as grooming). A dog may attack the restrained dog if they are feeling anxious about them.

As your two dogs are getting settled into their new lives together, make sure to keep both your older dog and your new dog active and keep them exercised, so they both stay in a healthy mindset and have a positive way to get out some of their extra energy.

What To Do If Things Go sour During the Introduction

When making the introduction between your new dog and your old dog, look out for any signs of aggression, anxiety, or defensive behaviors. Some behaviors to keep an eye out for include:

  • hair standing up on your dog's back

  • showing of the teeth

  • growling

  • a stiff walk

  • a long stare

  • lunging forward

  • snarling

  • quick nipping

Never put yourself physically between the two aggressive dogs because this could lead to injury. Instead, make sure to separate the dogs from each other with their leashes. Always remember to say calm and do not yell because dogs pick up on your emotions. If you need to separate them and their leashes are off, try spraying them down with a garden hose, a bucket, or even a spray bottle.

If the aggression between the two dogs does not improve, talk to your veterinarian. They may recommend a local professional dog behaviorist who will work with you to create a treatment plan on how to work through the aggressive behaviors.

Dogs may get jealous or territorial when they are welcoming a new dog into the family. Dogs want to get their fair share of attention from you, as well as food and treats. When a new dog is added to the picture, they may start to feel a little jealous. Experts recommend that when dogs show jealousy towards another dog, teach your dog to associate the new dog with good things. For example, only give them both a treat when they are both sitting nicely and getting along. Take both of the dogs on daily walks together - this will help teach them that they are now a "pack." Experiment with different treats and rewards, and in time your dogs will learn that good things come when they are getting along.

Welcome to the Pack!


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